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When women go to war
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Sgt. Patty Flahave is headed to Iraq with Company A of the 434th Main Support Battalion based at Camp Ripley. She could be gone for up to two years. (MPR Photo/Tim Post)
Even though 20 percent of the Minnesota National Guard troops on active duty are women, it's still hard to send a wife, a mother, a sister or a daughter to a dangerous place. And for the family back home, it's especially difficult.

Camp Ripley, Minn. — Sgt. Patty Flahave is a platoon leader in her National Guard unit. Flahave is in charge of 34 soldiers in Company A of the 434th Support Battalion, based at central Minnesota's Camp Ripley.

As Sgt. Flahave prepares for what could be two years away from home, she realizes how important the soldiers in her unit will become.

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Image Sgt. Tim Flahave and Sgt. Patty Flahave

"My company is like another family to me, they make me feel welcome. If you're gone during a drill, somebody notices when you're not there," Sgt. Flahave said. Flahave knows when her unit gets to Iraq, home will be on her mind. Her plan is to stay busy and stay focused.

"The down time will be the time that your mind starts drifting back to home, and you realize what you're missing," Patty said.

What Flahave will be missing is a new husband, whom she married just six months ago, and two stepchildren ages 19 and 20. But Flahave thinks the deployment will be tougher on her husband, Tim.

"I just have to keep busy and try to stay focused on my everyday things," says Tim Flahave. "It's tough, but I'll figure it out."

Tim's wife has been in the National Guard for 22 years, and he understands this is her job. Now he just wants her to be safe.

"I know they'll do a wonderful job wherever they go, but I hope they're in the rear. I hope she doesn't end up somewhere in harm's way," Flahave said.

I just have to keep busy and try to stay focused on my everyday things. It's tough, but I'll figure it out.
- Sgt. Tim Flahave

As the husband of a deploying soldier, Tim Flahave feels helpless. He would take his wife's place in a heartbeat.

"I know I can't. You want to protect her, and if I could be there I would. It might be a guy thing," said Tim. "But I think Patty said it best, 'A soldier is a soldier.' If you've got to go, you've got to go," Tim said.

Sgt. Patty Flahave left for Ft. Benning Georgia earlier this week. It's her first stop before heading to the Middle East. It's hard for Tim to hide his sadness, knowing how long it might be before he sees his wife again.

But add to that another worry. Tim Flahave is also a sergeant in the Minnesota National Guard. He's with an armored unit based in Brainerd.

"A year down the road, I hope I don't get deployed. Patty will be coming home, we'll cross each other's paths and we won't see each other for four years," Tim said.

Sgt. Tim Flahave and Sgt. Patty Flahave have big plans when they see each other again. They're going to renew their wedding vows, take a cruise and then build a house.

They're just not sure when that will be.

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